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Airline Travel With Pets

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If you are planning to travel by air with your pet, make sure to check with the airline well in advance of your trip to learn of any specific travel requirements.  If you are flying on an airplane  going  internationally, also check with your destination country for any pet-related requirements.  Health certificates are often necessary to travel with your dog, cat or other pet, and some countries require a period of quarantine for your pet on its arrival.

Before traveling with your pet, make sure to visit your veterinarian for a complete physical and to make sure that your pet is up to date on all vaccinations.  You may need to obtain a signed health certificate, which can take additional time.

Whey flying your pet, safety is paramount.  Check with your airline to be sure your pet carrier is an "airline-approved" crate.  Familiarize your pet with the carrier before your travel date to minimize stress.  The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around freely, but not so large that your pet can be tossed about during turbulence.  It must be well-ventilated, with walls that cannot be crushed, and have a sturdy carrying handle.  Follow all instructions for securing and identifying your pet and its crate during travel.

Small pets can travel in the cabin with their owners.  Your carrier must be able to fit under the seat, and your pet cannot be allowed to disturb other passengers.  Most airlines charge an additional fee for transporting pets, whether the pet is traveling in the cabin with its owner or in the baggage compartment.

You should book direct flights if at all possible!  Doing so will avoid the possibility of a missed baggage connection or your pet being exposed to extreme temperatures.  You should avoid airline travel when your pet may be exposed to (ground) temperatures below 40ºF (4 C) or above 80ºF (21 C).  Consider traveling at non-peak times so that baggage handlers will have the most time to handle your pet carrier.

Airline travel may pose a risk for pets that have a medical problem, such as kidney or heart disease. Short-faced breeds of dogs (eg, English bulldogs, Boston terriers, Pekinese, etc) and cats (eg, Himalayans, Persians and Exotic Shorthairs) do not travel well in certain situations.  Discuss these issues with your vet before traveling.

Do not feed your pet within 6 hours of a flight to reduce the possibility of vomiting.  However, water should be available to your pet at all times, including inside the carrier.  Do not tranquilize your pet without specific instructions from your vet.  Remember to take your pet's regular food and any needed medications on your trip.

Many lodging facilities accommodate pets, but be sure to check pet policies and make arrangements well in advance of your travel date.


Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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